Wednesday, July 13, 2016

36 Hours After the South China Sea Ruling, How Has China Reacted?

From The Diplomat (Jul 14): 36 Hours After the South China Sea Ruling, How Has China Reacted?

How can we score China’s reaction in the aftermath of a deeply humiliating international legal award

36 Hours After the South China Sea Ruling, How Has China Reacted?

On Tuesday, we saw a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration hand down a historic award on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, overwhelmingly favoring the Philippines—the plaintiff—over China. Beijing had long refused to participate in the case and we always expected a result in the Philippines’ favor (though perhaps not to the extent we saw in the actual award). My colleague Shannon Tiezzi noted China’s initial reaction to the verdict yesterday: Beijing declared the ruling “null and void,” and said it wouldn’t affect its South China Sea claims.

Now, more than a day later, it’s worth taking stock of some of the other things China has done in reaction to the award. How Beijing reacts in the coming days will set the tone not just for the progression of maritime disputes in the South China Sea, but also for potential bilateral negotiations between the government of the Philippines, which has shown new enthusiasm to talking directly to China under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Moreover, what China does and does not do will affect Beijing’s broader relationship with Washington. As I discussed on Monday, there is a perception in China that the United States encouraged Manila to go to court, resulting in this moment of national embarrassment for China.

So, in addition to releasing a statement on the behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, a statement by the Foreign Ministry, and furthermore having both its foreign minister and ambassador to the United States speak on the issue of the verdict, China took but a single “kinetic” move. On Tuesday, after the award was released, it flew a Cessna CE-680 civilian aircraft between Mischief and Subi reefs.

This was not a new action for Beijing in the Spratly Islands and, given the broader tensions, was fairly unprovocative. (Mischief Reef was notably decided to be part of the Philippines’ continental shelf in Tuesday’s award.) It’s notable, also, that the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the organization that acted as registry in the case, saw its website taken down for about 5 hours in the aftermath of the release of the award.

The Court hasn’t confirmed publicly, but it could be possible that it faced a cyberattack—if not by the Chinese state, then by nationalists unhappy with the award. The Court’s website suffered a breach last summer. Though attribution will remain unclear, the PCA website outage can cautiously be read as one more Chinese reaction to the verdict.

Finally, it’s worth also taking stock of what China didn’t do in the aftermath of the award. As of this writing, less than 48 hours after the award’s release, Beijing has not declared an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, moved to begin reclamation at Scarborough Shoal, sanctioned the Philippines, or announced an intent to withdraw from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Additionally, China’s state censorship apparatus has apparently moved to censor hypernationalist calls for war, demonstrating state interest in putting a lid on nationalist outbursts. Finally, unlike in the aftermath of the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade or the 2012 Japanese nationalization of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, China has not allowed managed public protests near the Philippines or U.S. embassies.

If I had to subjectively “score” China’s reaction, I’d read this as … fairly good all things considered. Remember that for China, the sense of ownership over the South China Sea is absolute and the award is a huge moment of national humiliation. For the first time in its modern history as a great power wielding global economic clout, Beijing’s actions have been declared transgressive under international law. This could have been much worse.

One of the factors that perhaps caused China to react in a more managed and careful way in the aftermath of the ruling is the new government in the Philippines. Duterte’s unexpected willingness to talk is a far cry from his predecessor, who filed the case in the first place. It’s unclear exactly how much space exists for bargaining between China and the Philippines in the wake of this ruling, but Beijing’s reaction suggests its interested in keeping the door open.

Why the Philippines Needs More Than Just Military Upgrades

From The Diplomat (Jul 14): Why the Philippines Needs More Than Just Military Upgrades (By Jay Tristan Tarriela)

Modernizing the Coast Guard is an urgent (but neglected) task for the archipelagic state.

Why the Philippines Needs More Than Just Military Upgrades
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Lieutenantpdg

In 2012, the Philippines deployed its Navy’s flagship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to apprehend Chinese fishing vessels and arrest fishermen who had poached critically endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures in the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed feature in the South China Sea previously under the exclusive control of Manila. It must be noted that sending its warships to conduct law enforcement patrols was nothing new for the Philippines. In fact, the country’s Navy had routinely apprehended Chinese fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys in the past. Manila’s civilian maritime law enforcement agency, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), lacked the capability to traverse waters beyond the country’s territorial sea. Considering the Scarborough Shoal’s 220-kilometer distance from the nearest Luzon landmass, PCG could not possibly patrol the area. China’s decision, however, to respond by sending white vessels from China Marine Surveillance, a paramilitary maritime law enforcement agency under its Transport Ministry, was something new. It resulted in a standoff, which eventually led to a new status quo, albeit ambiguous, in favor of Beijing.

The 2012 incident that disadvantaged Manila was just one manifestation of the country’s security challenges, brought about by the so-called tyranny of geography. After all, the Philippines is an archipelagic nation with some 7,500 islands and a 36,000-kilometer coastline.

First, it borders China, a fast rising great power and an increasingly threatening neighbor. As a U.S.-treaty ally loudly disputing Beijing’s claim to over 80 percent of the South China Sea, the Philippines is proving to be a serious obstruction to China’s maritime ambitions and aspirations. Second, while the archipelago is inhabited by 100 million Filipinos, the islands are so dispersed over a wide area that monitoring maritime activities has proven to be an impossible job for government forces. The occasional kidnapping of tourists by the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group from resorts in Sabah and Mindanao highlights this point. Finally, the location of the country itself means that many parts of it are prone to natural disasters. For instance, around 20 typhoons batter the country each year, necessitating massive evacuations and post-disaster rescue and relief operations. These are the security challenges of maritime Philippines.

Apart from the on-going Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, fast-tracked by the previous Aquino Administration, there seems to be nothing else significant on the table to address these issues. But Manila’s three-pronged security challenge – internal security, natural disasters, and maritime security in the South China Sea – is complex and multilayered. It calls for a more comprehensive approach that should not rely exclusively on military upgrades.

While billions of dollars are being spent on the ill-equipped AFP, there seems to be a lack of attention to civilian maritime forces. In fact, the last major hardware acquisition of the PCG was in 2004. This is peculiar given that the Philippines is a maritime state. Last year, the national budget passed by Congress included allocations for two choppers intended for PCG. Nothing materialized.

Coast Guard Surface Assets

A quick review of current PCG inventory could easily expose the Philippines’ lack of capability to patrol its coastline, the fifth longest in the world, to guard its UN Convention on the Law of the Sea-mandated exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and other entitlements, and to respond to contingencies, such as law enforcement and search and rescue, in Philippine-controlled maritime areas.

The Coast Guard has a 60-meter vessel acquired from Japan in 1999. It has eight Search and Rescue Vessels (SARVs) – four 35-meter vessels and another four 56-meter vessels – acquired through a soft-loan from Australia in 2000. In 2004, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) received a soft loan from Spain for the construction of ten 30-meter Monitoring, Controlling and Surveillance (MCS) boats and four 11-meter MCS boats. These assets are jointly being operated by BFAR and PCG in fulfilling their interlinked mandates. It must be noted however, that none of these surface assets could patrol beyond the country’s territorial waters for a long period of time. These SARVs and MCS boats are also not big enough and not equipped to withstand weather disturbances and difficult sea currents. Their reliability and operational capability have gradually deteriorated as they age.

In addition to those relatively newer surface assets, the PCG also has 34 older small crafts, many of them with serious operational and maintenance issues. Meanwhile, PCG’s three buoy tender vessels (AE-79, AE-89, AE-46) and a lone patrol gunboat (PG-64), which were once part of the Philippine Navy’s fleet, are no longer operational and are considered beyond repair.

Need for Coastguard Modernization

While it is understandable for Manila to focus on military upgrades, the complexity of the Philippines’ security challenges require that it also provide a renewed attention to its civilian maritime law enforcers.

First, as mentioned above, China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea will remain to be the country’s biggest traditional security challenge in the years to come. For some time now, Beijing has been conspicuously using civilian maritime law enforcement vessels to enforce its claim and change the status quo of disputed features to its favor. These vessels are large, many of them armed, and are capable of traversing the high seas. In terms of sheer numbers, China has the biggest coast guard fleet in the world with an estimated total tonnage of more than 500,000. In addition to government vessels, China has also been notorious in recent years for using “maritime militia” or simply civilian fishing boats to create new facts in areas it wants to control.

How then should Manila respond? Manila cannot afford to be accused of “militarizing” the South China Sea disputes by dispatching warships to the areas it controls. Doing so would provide Beijing yet another opportunity to reverse status quos. Hence, what Manila really needs is a fleet of highly capable Coast Guard vessels that could patrol its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, in particular the waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal and the Spratlys. This is particularly important considering the likely favorable decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Manila’s case against Beijing’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea.

Also, a highly equipped PCG could complement the AFP’s “minimum credible defense posture,” maintain constant presence indicating effective control and jurisdiction on Philippine-controlled maritime zones, and deter illegal fishing, while at the same time avoiding escalation of conflicts.

Second, a strong Coast Guard is imperative for the Philippines’ fulfillment of its obligations under international law and its regional security responsibilities. On the former, UNCLOS mandates coastal states to provide maritime and aviation search and rescue services and repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction, among other responsibilities. This is particularly important given that Southeast Asia has been a maritime piracy hotspot for some time now. The Philippines also has the responsibility to counter and to prevent the proliferation of WMDs provided for by international strategic trade control regimes. Hence, for the fulfillment of all these tasks, Manila should have the capability to track, chase, and regulate the passage of ships within its maritime area of responsibility. Moreover, for the country to benefit from UNCLOS-mandated economic entitlements, it is important for Manila to have the capability to enforce its laws and protect marine biodiversity.

A constant presence of highly equipped Coast Guard vessels could go a long way in preventing extremist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf from carrying out their usual kidnapping, often from resorts in Sabah. A highly capable PCG bodes well for the blossoming non-traditional security cooperation among the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, an important step in preventing the Islamic State from increasing its presence in the areas surrounding the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

Third, boosting PCG significantly helps in disaster preparedness. Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013 exposed how the government’s limited resources hindered its ability to respond rapidly and effectively to catastrophes. The massive relief operations in the aftermath of the super typhoon required air and maritime assets for the transport of relief goods and medical supplies, and the relocation of victims, assets that the Philippines simply did not have. Highly equipped Coast Guard vessels, choppers, and equipment could prove to be useful during evacuations and post-disaster search, rescue and relief operations.

Policy Prescription: Rapidly Modernize PCG

The Philippines’ decision to tap Japan for the construction of ten 40-meter Multi-Role Vessels (MRV) for civilian maritime law enforcement is a step in the right direction. Needless to say, these new vessels will enable PCG to fulfill its mandates and extend its operations even up to Philippine-controlled areas of the South China Sea. However, it must be recalled that, for at least three years, the project languished from bureaucratic delays or perhaps indecision. First agreed upon in 2011, construction only began in 2015 and the first of the ten vessels has not even been delivered yet. Manila needs a sense of urgency in concluding similar agreements in the future.

Indeed, the Japan deal should not be the be-all and end-all of PCG modernization. The new Duterte administration should be able to conclude similar agreements with other countries to further PCG’s capability upgrades and reach. For instance, offshore patrol vessels will still be needed in order to sustain a longer and continuous presence in those areas controlled by the Philippines. PCG also lacks radar facilities for full maritime domain awareness, as well as surveillance, search and rescue equipment.
But relying on soft loans cannot be Manila’s exclusive mode of PCG modernization. It has to increase budget allocations for its maritime law enforcement commensurate to its status as a rapidly developing maritime state. Since the PCG is under the Transportation Ministry, it should be relatively easier and less sensitive for the government to justify increased budget allocation. The next big step should therefore be for President Duterte to push for the PCG Modernization Bill in Congress and certify such as “urgent,” the same manner in which Aquino treated the AFP Modernization.

Not solely relying on overseas development assistance and soft loans for PCG modernization also means that other acquisitions could be built locally. The Philippines, the fourth largest shipbuilding nation in the world, is certainly capable of locally sourcing civilian vessels. Not only is it politically sound, since doing so would create local employment and boost the local economy, it is also cost-effective.

Finally, parallel to PCG’s physical upgrades, the Philippines should also proactively engage its peers in the region, from Japan and China to ASEAN and Australia for policy coherence, common understanding of international maritime norms, regimes, and other codes of acceptable behaviors, and increased cooperation. By so doing, it could effectively influence civilian maritime law enforcement standards and dissuade countries from using their Coast Guards to challenge the status quos of disputed maritime zones and from imposing new restrictions on the high seas, helping guarantee freedom of navigation.

Overall, the Philippines should pay closer attention to its Coast Guard and see the agency’s potential to help address many of the country’s traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

[Jay Tristan Tarriela is a Philippine Coast Guard Officer and a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo. Jeffrey Ordaniel is a PhD Candidate at the Security and International Studies Program of the Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo, and a Young Leader with Pacific Forum CSIS, Honolulu.]

What you need to know about the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling

From CNN Philippines (Jul 13): What you need to know about the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — After seven months of deliberation, an international panel of judges unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in a 3-year-old case against China's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague released a 479 page “Award,” or ruling, that shot down China's claim that it has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters within its "nine-dash line" boundary. The five-member panel also found that China had caused "severe harm" to the marine environment because of its land reclamations.

The Tribunal's “final and binding” decision was based on documents from the Philippines and China, records of the United Nations, and jurisprudence on international maritime cases.

The judgment revolves around United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS — an international treaty that sets the limits of countries' territorial waters and guidelines for the use of marine resources. The Philippine and China are signatories to the treaty.

Among other things, UNCLOS provides countries with a 200 nautical mile-Exclusive Economic Zone measured from their coasts. Countries have the sole right to fish, mine, drill or use other resources within their respective zones.
West-PH-Sea-101-infographics-CNNPH (4).png

China refused to accept the tribunal's jurisdiction and participate in the proceedings. It published a "Position Paper" in December 2014 that elaborated on its claims and explained why the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case. “The essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the Convention and does not concern the interpretation or application of the Convention.”

However, the Tribunal cited Annex VII of UNCLOS which states that the absence of a party or the failure of a party to defend its case shall not stop the proceedings.

China's nine-dash line

In its position paper, China claimed it has historic rights over the area demarcated by its  nine-dash line, saying it "was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea Islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them."

PH-CHI-Territorial-Row_infographics_CNNPH (4).png

The judges ruled such rights have been "extinguished" because these were "incompatible" with the EEZs under UNCLOS. Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands are beyond China's EEZ.

"The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," the ruling said.

Status of land formations

According to UNCLOS, countries' maritime entitlements are determined by their land formations.

Those that are submerged during high tide do not have entitlements. Land formations that stay above water during high tide but cannot sustain human life are called rocks, and are entitled to a 12-nautical mile territorial sea. Land formations that can naturally sustain either a stable community of people or economic activity are regarded  as islands entitled to a 200-nautical mile EEZ.

The judges found that certain reefs claimed by China — which are supposed to be submerged during high tide – have been heavily modified through land reclamations and construction. Although Chinese personnel have subsequently occupied what have become artificial islands, the judges ruled that these modifications do not reflect the "natural conditions” and cannot generate an EEZ.

"The Tribunal found that it could — without delimitating a boundary — declare that certain areas in the Spratly Islands are within the Philippines' EEZ," the ruling said.

Chinese actions in PH's EEZ

The Tribunal ruled that certain areas within the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal, "all fall within areas where only the Philippines possesses possible entitlements to maritime zones under the Convention (UNCLOS)."
"The relevant areas can only constitute the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines. Accordingly, the Philippines — and not China — possesses sovereign rights with respect to resources in these areas," it said.

The Tribunal found China to have "violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone" by:
  • Interfering with fishing and petroleum exploration
  • Constructing artificial islands
  • Failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone
The judges said that fishermen from the Philippines, like those from China, traditionally fished at Scarborough Shoal but that China had restricted access by Filipinos to this fishing ground.

They also said "Chinese law enforcement vessels had unlawfully created a series risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels." These acts violated international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, the judges said.

China's 'harm to marine environment'

The Tribunal said the protection and preservation of the marine environment is a hallmark of UNCLOS and countries are obliged to “promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment."
The Tribunal, however, found that China's land reclamation and construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys severely harmed the coral reef environment. It also said that Chinese authorities did not stop Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles, corals, and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea.

China's 'aggravation of dispute'

The Tribunal also said China's large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands undermined ongoing dispute resolution proceedings. It reminded China to refrain from aggravating its disputes with other countries while they are trying to settle their differences.

US senators reaffirm responsibilities under Mutual Defense Treaty with PH

From Update.Ph (Jul 13): US senators reaffirm responsibilities under Mutual Defense Treaty with PH

United States Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Senator John McCain and a fellow Republican lawmaker Senator Dan Sullivan welcomed the award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case of The Republic of the Philippines against The People’s Republic of China. They also said the award is binding on all parties involved.

McCain and Sullivan also reaffirmed the responsibilities of US under the Mutual Defense Treaty with Philippines.

The US senators also said China now has two choices to make. “China can choose to be guided by international law, institutions, and norms. Or it can choose to reject them and pursue the path of intimidation and coercion. Too often in recent years, China has chosen the latter. The world will be watching to see the choice China makes,” Senators McCain and Sullivan said in a released statement.

They also said the United States government must continue to be clear and consistent in its policy to oppose unilateral actions by any claimant seeking to change the status quo in the South China Sea through the use of coercion, intimidation, unilateral declarations or military force.

McCain and Sullivan also said they expect the US Military to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

“We remain committed to our alliance with the Philippines and to our responsibilities under the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951,” the two American senators said.

“We also look forward to further developing our longstanding relationship and alliance with the Philippines in the years ahead. As such, we urge Secretary Kerry to visit Manila and meet with President Duterte during his upcoming trip to the ASEAN Regional Forum,” they added.

15 more Abu Sayyaf killed in Basilan offensive, Westmincom says

From the Philippine Star (Jul 13): 15 more Abu Sayyaf killed in Basilan offensive, Westmincom says

At least 15 more Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed in a military offensive in the mountains of Tipo-Tipo in Basilan province.
The military said the operation, which ran until dusk Tuesday, also left 14 soldiers injured, including five Army rangers who were hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) on Monday.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincon), said the additional 15 Abu Sayyaf fatalities was a result of intense bombardment and a ground assault at Hill 490, a position fortified by the militants in Barangay Baguindan.
“The fresh numbers of Abu Sayyaf fatalities are still being validated and verified on the ground. But the troops believe the number could be even higher. That is why we are validating and confirming it on the ground,” Tan said.
The figure, once confirmed, will bring the total number of Abu Sayyaf militants killed to 55, with scores more wounded in operations in Basilan and Sulu.
The military earlier that at least 22 militants were killed in Sulu and 18 in Basilan since their offensive on Wednesday last week.
Tan said the ground assault Tuesday afternoon was supposed to flush out the Abu Sayyaf militants for their dug-in positions.
Troopers from the 8th Scout Ranger Company, 14th Scout Ranger Company and 64th Infantry Battalion led the assault, where nine soldiers were wounded.
The wounded were identified as TSgt. Rolito Quimson, SSgt. Warren Ybañez, Sgt. Elizalde Togado, Cpl. Teofisto Rabena, Cpl. Ryan Jay Zerrudo, Cpl. Rizalito Sayson, Cpl. Archie Pacionela, Cpl. Noel Morales, Cpl. Marnie Carpentil, Pfc. Ronald Abayon, Pfc. Julius Avila, Pfc. Albert Villanueva, Pfc. Vincent Maghari and Pfc. Jeffrey Habala.
They were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City for treatment.
Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz awarded them wounded personnel medals in recognition of their gallantry.
Dela Cruz promised the wounded troopers that Westmincom will step up operations in Basilan to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Govt peace panel to talks with NDF complete, brings back 'GRP'

From InterAksyon (Jul 13): Govt peace panel to talks with NDF complete, brings back 'GRP'

The government panel to peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has completed its lineup, independent media outfit Kodao Productions reported.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who heads the panel, told Kodao they would revert to using the old GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to refer to themselves instead of GPH (Government of the Philippines), which was adopted by the Aquino administration.

It was as the GRP that 10 agreements with the NDFP were signed, including the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

The new additions to the GRP panel are two lawyers from Mindanao -- Angela Librado, who will represent women, and Noel Felongco, who will represent indigenous people.

Librado is a former Davao City councilor who is now Matina barangay chairperson, while Felongco, who hails from Cagayan de Oro, was described by Bello as an “anti-irresponsible mining advocate.”

Rounding off the GRP panel are former congressman Hernani Braganza and lawyer Rene Sarmiento, both of whom were members of the government panels under the Ramos and Arroyo governments.

Formal talks with the communists are expected to resume later this month or sometime August.

Bello also announced the appointment of two heads of reciprocal working committees: lawyer Efren Moncupa, a former government negotiator, for socio-economic reforms, and Ateneo de Manila University School of Law dean Sedfrey Candelaria, for political and constitutional reforms.

No one has yet been named to head the last technical working committee, on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, although Bello told Kodao he has already consulted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The NDFP panel, which represents communist rebels in the talks, will still be headed by Luis Jalandoni with his wife Coni Ledesma, Fidel Agacoili and Juliet de Lima, wife of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison, as members. Kodao reported that the NDFP panel hopes to be joined by Alan Jazmines, an alleged ranking rebel leader who has been in detention since his arrest in 2011.

China conducts test landings over fake islands in Spratlys

From Update.Ph (Jul 14): China conducts test landings over fake islands in Spratlys

Mischief reef. Xinhua photo

One day after the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared China’s nine-dash line claim over the West Philippine Sea has no legal basis and found that China – with its artificial islands in Spratlys – had caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species — Chinese media reported that commercial test flights were conducted on two new airports over fake Chinese islands in West Philippine Sea.

Chinese official press agency, Xinhua said passenger jets of China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines were utilized for the said test flights July 13.
Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines jets landed on an airport in fake Chinese island built over Panganiban (Mischief) reef. Panganiban reef is located 134.989 nautical miles west of Palawan.

Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines jets also landed on an airport in fake Chinese island built over Zamora (Subi) reef. Zamora reed is 16 miles from Pag-asa Island.

“China successfully carried out test flights on two new airports on the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday, further enhancing its capability to provide public services as a responsible player in the region,” Xinhua said.

Subi reef. Xinhua photo

Pacific Partnership 2016 conducts two-day pharmacy, blood bank operation, management exchanges

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 8): Pacific Partnership 2016 conducts two-day pharmacy, blood bank operation, management exchanges

Sailors assigned to hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) visited Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) June 30, for a pharmacy and blood banking subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) as part of the Pacific Partnership humanitarian care mission in the province of Albay.
During the two-day SMEE, sailors worked side-by-side with local Filipino doctors, medical technicians, physicians and pharmacists to learn how each other operate and help one another.

BRTTH personnel began the SMEE with a presentation of their blood banking service capability. The hospital’s mission is to be the premier blood bank in the province of Albay and hospital staff took advantage of the exchange to discuss their upcoming transition to include expanding their pharmacy services.

“The BRTTH pharmacy is going to be moving into a new space soon and the personnel is interested in initiating clinical pharmacy services to expand the delivery of care in the hospital,” said Cmdr. Bruce Thompson, the pharmacy department head aboard USNS Mercy.

To assist in expanding care, sailors traded information about implementation of clinical pharmacy, antimicrobial stewardship and pathology services.

“We stood side-by-side and learned what they do, how they intake patients, the type of medications they dispense and different techniques they use,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Charles Nugent.
While touring the hospital, Sailors and local health professionals learned from one another discussing shared daily experiences, routines and medical challenges.
“It went great,” said Thompson. “Everyone was very friendly, receptive and eager to learn and we had some great discussions. They’re our colleagues who just happen to be practicing in another country.”
The second day of the SMEE BRTTH medical personnel came aboard Mercy to further discuss pharmacy and blood banking techniques and to tour the ship.
“This is the first time I’m able to see a really big ship, and one that has medical supplies and machines,” said Dr. Madeline Rañola, a Pathologist at BRTTH. “It’s amazing.”

BRTTH employees worked alongside Sailors to learn first hand the ship’s process for compatibility testing and antibody identification. Sailors also discussed sterile compounding, pharmacy practices in the U.S., pharmacy automation and technology.
“Everything went great, we now have the basics and some guidelines we can follow and that’s going to help us setting up the pharmacy,” said Janelle Morga, a pharmacist for BRTTH. “We’d love to have Pacific Partnership back!”
This year marks the seventh time Pacific Partnership has visited the Philippines since the mission began in 2006. Following the mission stop in Legazpi Pacific Partnership 2016 will continue on to Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Pacific Partnership 2016 typifies renewed partnership, cooperation among stakeholder-nations

Fro the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 11): Pacific Partnership 2016 typifies renewed partnership, cooperation among stakeholder-nations

Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara was all but thankful to the organizers and partners from both the Filipino and United States-led contingents in staging the Pacific Partnership 2016 providing humanitarian care services to the provincial residents in the past two weeks.

Bichara furthered that the mission has proven anew and strengthened the bond and friendship of the two countries, among other partners, that has stood the test of time and trials while providing the essential assistance to help uplift the lives of the locales especially in the countryside.

The governor keynoted the closing ceremony Pacific Partnership 2016  held at the Legazpi Convention Center here Sunday.

The 12-day humanitarian care mission commenced last June 27 and concluded on July 10.

Commanders of Armed Forces of tyhe Philippines (AFP) led by MGen. Romeo Gan and of the US led multinational force, RDML Babette Bolivar of the US Navy, who were also both present in the ceremony, share similar sentiments that the Pacific Partnership emphasized on the cooperation and mutual support of the two countries and other partners in dire circumstances such as natural calamities that often strikes the region.

The two military officers also accentuated the integration of international aid in supporting and performing local response in a given locality.

The collaboration and partnership among the uniformed personnel, local government units, other government line agencies, and volunteer groups, among others, was lauded and warmly received by the Albayanos as various services were offered.

The assistance came in the form of medical and dental civic action programs (Med/DenCAP), cooperative health engagements (CHE), engineering civic action programs (EnCAP), subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), community relations (ComRel) activities and guided tours on board USNS Mercy hospital ship)

At least 7,859 locales benefited from the numerous services under the different programs of the Pacific Partnership  2016 that greatly helped in the capacity building among various stakeholders in the province.

In the course of the events, US contingent also facilitated the turn-over of Disaster Coordinating Center to the AFP, under the stewardship of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), located at the Tactical Operations Group (TOG) Bicol headquarters here.

The Pacific Partnership is a US led multinational contingent with a 14-country members that was organized after the December 2004 tsunami that affected The Pacific Partnership came to be in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters, the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia.

Over the years, mission has evolved primarily as direct care mission to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.

The multinational force is composed of 14 member countries that sends representatives for missions within the Indio-Asia-Pacific region.

This year, Pacific Partnership is embarked on the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and shall be starting their four-day voyage to Vietnam tomorrow for their next engagement.

PP16’s ENCAP benefits grade schools of Albay

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 12): PP16’s ENCAP benefits grade schools of Albay

Weeks of hard work finally paid off for the US Navy’s Construction Battalion (USCB) after seeing the thankful faces of the pupils of Kinawitan Elementary School. Last July 8, worn out but satisfied, the “SeaBees” (USCB) were among those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the classrooms they constructed in the said school.

“This is what we’re here for, we do it for the kids,” said USN Capt. Brian Vickers, the project manager for the Engineering and Civic Assistance Program (ENCAP), one of the main humanitarian programs constituting the 2016 Pacific Partnership (PP16) missions.

 The ENCAP aims to enhance friendship, capacity and cooperation among allied nations by initiating construction projects that will benefit underprivileged communities.

Though the main continent body arrived in the Philippines last June 27, members of the “SeaBees” (USCB) have already been in the country as early as the middle of May to begin the constructions of school facilities. Three schools of Albay has been chosen to be beneficiaries of the ENCAP, namely Kinawitan Elementary School and Mabini Elementary School of Daraga, and Comun Elementary School of Camalig.

During the ribbon-cutting and turn-over rites of the new school building in Kinawitan Elementary, Capt. Vickers and his men were all smiles with what they have accomplished. Going above and beyond their initial plan, they also conducted renovations and repair on other buildings of the school.

“The original plan was just to build the new classrooms. But, when we saw the conditions of the other building, we had to do something,” said Vickers, referring a classroom with a rotten off roof which they replaced with a new steel roof.

Cutting the ribbon for the said ceremony is Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, commander of the US Navy’s Joint Region Marianas and the only female of Bicolano-descent to be of the said rank in the US Navy. On her speech, Bolivar said that she could only hope the classrooms lasts for a long time as it serves as a testament that much could be achieved through cooperation and love for the common good.

Philippine-American Friendship Week sees arrival of 72 New Peace Corps volunteers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 13): Philippine-American Friendship Week sees arrival of 72 New Peace Corps volunteers

A total of 72 new U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who arrived on Sunday, July 3, now joined the nearly 9,000 Americans who have served as Peace Corps contingent in the Philippines since 1961, according to the US Embassy in Manila.

 In an email to this writer, the Information Office of the US Embassy stated that the new U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers will work anew side-by-side with Filipinos to address community-based needs and engage in cross-cultural learning and living.

The Philippines is the second oldest Peace Corps program.

Inspired by President John F. Kennedy, the goal of the U.S. Peace Corps is to promote world peace and friendship between the U.S. and the nations we serve. 

Following their arrival, the volunteers will immediately undergo at least 10 weeks of intensive pre-service training that includes technical, language, and cultural studies to prepare them for their service.

The volunteers will be assigned to work for a period of two years in communities throughout the Philippines in the fields of education, youth development and environment in partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Welfare and Social Development, local government units and local non-governmental organizations.

The new volunteers range in age from 21 to 68, and bring a variety of experience and technical skills, as well as a spirited enthusiasm to learn about the Philippines

PH Air Force awards Xavier PAF-ROTC anew

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 11): PH Air Force awards Xavier PAF-ROTC anew

For the third consecutive time, the Philippine Air Force has recognized Xavier University’s PAF-ROTC, officially known as the 801st Department of Air Science and Tactics (DAST) group, as “PAF Ready Reserve DAST Unit of the Year.”

President Rodrigo R Duterte on July 5, led the recognition of outstanding PAF personnel and units on the occasion of the service branch’s 69th anniversary held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Besides President Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP chief of staff Lt Gen Ricardo Visaya, and PAF commanding general Lt Gen Edgar Fallorina, presented the plaques of recognition and streamers to the units and individuals who have contributed to the accomplishment of the Air Force’s mission.

In September 2014, the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also awarded Xavier as the country’s “Top ROTC Unit of the Year” during their 35th National Reservist Week Celebration at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City. XU received the same award from the AFP in 2013.

Pres. Duterte appoints retired Gen. Yano as DND usec

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 8): Pres. Duterte appoints retired Gen. Yano as DND usec 

Retired Brig. Gen. Cesar B. Yano was recently appointed as Undersecretary for Defense Operations of the Department of National Defense (DND) by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

A native of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte

Usec. Yano was born in Barangay Disud, Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte, the third child in a brood of five, to parents who were both public school teachers.

He finished his elementary education in Sindangan Pilot Demonstration School and his high school was spent at St. Joseph College, Sindangan.

He first tasted city life when he took up 3 years of engineering studies in Cebu City before he entered the Philippine Military Academy.

Serving the military

Brig. Gen. Yano was a member of the PMA Class of 1980 and was in military service for 34 years.

Upon graduation from PMA, he experienced real action as a young lieutenant at the height of the secessionist rebellion in Jolo, Sulu in the early 80’s.

He is the younger brother of Alexander B. Yano, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine ambassador to Brunei Darussalam during the presidency of Gloria M. Arroyo.

He also served as assistant chief of staff for civil military operations and spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division in Northern Mindanao.

In 2005, Yano worked as chief of staff of the 7th Infantry Division and the Northern Luzon Command based at Fort Magsaysay, Cabanatuan City.

The valor of this mighty general was later on challenged in 2007 when he became the commander of the 302nd Brigade operating combat battalions in Cebu, Bohol and eastern Negros. Because of his successful fight against the New People’s Army (NPA), the latter has issued a “warrant of arrest” against him and six other army field commanders.  

In 2010, he became the second son of the province of Zamboanga del Norte to earn the much coveted rank of general in the AFP following the footsteps of his elder brother who retired as a four-star general.

Attaché to the United States

He once served as the country’s Defense and Armed Forces attaché to the United States in 2011.

While serving as one of the country’s top military diplomat in Washington, D.C., the Philippine Navy acquired two Hamilton-class weather high-endurance cutters (WHECs) that were renamed as BRP Gregorio del Pilar and  BRP Ramon Alcaraz. In addition, the Philippine Air Force C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane was also successfully overhauled in Mojave, California and the AFP received new weapons and numerous military supplies worth $2.8 million.

These two ships and military weapons were considered a big boost to the country’s external defense protecting our maritime borders.

Moreover, he received the Philippine Legion of Honor Award for his meritorious and valuable services which enhanced our diplomatic and security relations with the United States as well as Canada.

Accordingly, he provided the DND and AFP with vital information that served as basis in the decision-making of government policy makers. He relentlessly engaged the security experts and think-tanks based in Washington D.C to discuss security implications to the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region.

He retired from military service on May 10, 2013 as Brigadier General of the Philippine Army.

Undersecretary for Defense Operations

As USec for Defense Operations, he is tasked to advise and assist the secretary of National Defense in formulating and implementing department objectives and policies on matters pertaining to defense operations.

Certainly, Usec. Yano has both the brilliance and expertise in bringing the country to its highest potential, to effectively and efficiently guard against internal and external threats to national peace and security while providing support for social and economic development.

1 soldier killed, 5 wounded in Basilan offensive vs. Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 13): 1 soldier killed, 5 wounded in Basilan offensive vs. Abu Sayyaf

One soldier was killed, while five others were wounded yesterday (July 12) morning after a bomb exploded in Tipo-Tipo municipality, Basilan, where military operations have been relentless against the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

According to Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesperson Maj. Filemon Tan, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded at around 6:20 in the morning of July 12 when the troops under the 8th Scout Ranger Company and 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion were conducting clearing operations.

The wounded soldiers are now at Camp Navarro General Hospital in Wesmincom.

“We have been continuing with our operations against these bandits in Basilan and Sulu,” Maj. Tan emphasized, adding that government forces are relentless in the campaign to neutralize the terror group.

Maj. Tan said that government forces have been eyeing an ASG-fortified hill in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

“The hill is high ground and it is a strategic advantage for the enemy,” he said, which attributes to the gradual movement of government troops.

The hill serves as a temporary camp of the ASG.He reported that at least 23 ASGs were killed with 20 others wounded during the operations in Basilan and Sulu.

“Heavy firefight is still ongoing involving armored vehicles, artillery fires and close air support against the ASG,” added the army major.

The Abu Sayyaf is known for its terrorist activities including the recent beheading of two Canadians, bombings, and extortion in Southern Philippines.

1FAB, DXPR ink MOU to strengthen partnership

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 14): 1FAB, DXPR ink MOU to strengthen partnership

The 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment, Philippine Army intensifies the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”  by actively engaging the participation of its stakeholders.

Over the weekend, the 1FAB represented by commanding officer Lt. Colonel Hubert Acierto and RMN DXPR radio station represented by Station Manager Melchor U. Coronel formally inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at Chandler Suites here to express the convergence of will between the two parties in the implementation of programs, activities, and projects designed to help the poor.

Acierto gave a detailed explanation why the MOU signing ceremony between the 1FAB and DXPR is being conducted.

He observed that some of the activities of 1FAB were similarly conducted by the management of DXPR in Pagadian City and in the municipalities of Labangan and Tukuran, respectively.

The unit conducted series of activities such as: medical and civic action program (MEDCAP), feeding program, and school supplies distribution, among others. It is also regularly extending support services to the Department of Education through the National School Maintenance Week (Brigada Eskwela), and Balik Eskwela Program in the adopted barangays of the above-mentioned municipalities.

“With this, we decided to partner with them in the conduct of activities to help the poor,” he added.

Meanwhile, Coronel said he was elated to partner with the 1FAB in providing basic social services to the poor and marginalized sector.

DXPR, he said is not only committed to continually provide news, information and entertainment to its listeners but the company is also committed to deliver social services as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Tukuran Mayor Francisvic Villamero, one of the witnesses of the MOU signing in his message said the partnership of 1FAB and DXPR is an effective approach to “win the hearts and minds” of the people saying that it is a part of the “Bayanihan” campaign implemented by the AFP in 2011.

Villamero said the approach will correct the negative impression of the people on our soldiers that they are bad especially during the Martial law years.

 “I am very much willing to support your programs and activities.  I can provide you supplies and men to facilitate the conduct of your activities,” Villamero volunteered.

“I hope that your endeavors will help President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration in solving the insurgency problem of the Philippines,” the mayor concluded.

5 ex-rebels integrated into government's CLIP, LSIP projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): 5 ex-rebels integrated into government's CLIP, LSIP projects

Five former New People's Army (NPA) rebels were integrated into the government's Comphrensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) during short ceremonies at the Governor's Office Provincial Capitol Building, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Wednesday.

In the same event, the ex-NPA fighters were also inducted into Palawan's Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).

Each CLIP beneficiary received PHP65,000 worth of aid from the government, with PHP15,000 as immediate cash assistance and the remaining PHP50,000 for livelihood initiatives.

While their LSIP grant amounted to PHP25,000 as inclusive livelihood assistance.

Western Command commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said that the continuous rise of NPA surrenders in Palawan shows the local government’s earnestness and partnership with WESCOM in attaining peace and order through the implementation of CLIP and LSIP for reconciliation and reintegration into the society of former rebels.

This is also a manifestation of former rebels desire and hope for new beginnings and a better future, he added.

“We welcome them with open arms as our brothers and sisters, and celebrate their ‘homecoming’. It’s about time that they get to live peaceful lives that they deserve just like everyone else,” Mercado stressed.

PH-China ruling could help restart talks – ICG

From Rappler (Jul 13): PH-China ruling could help restart talks – ICG

Despite China rejecting the ruling, it could form the basis of a 'better, durable, negotiated outcome', the International Crisis Group says

The historic ruling on the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could restart negotiations between the parties involved, a think tank said Wednesday, July 13.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on Tuesday, July 12, ruled that China's expansive claims in the disputed sea has no legal basis under international law, and that its artificial island building and the blocking of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal were unlawful.

Despite China rejecting the ruling, the "judgment’s legal clarity could ultimately provide the basis of a better, durable, negotiated outcome for the many parties involved," according to a post by the International Crisis Group's Yanmei Xie.
"While the ruling is likely to provoke heated rhetoric in the short term, it could ultimately help reverse recent trends toward confrontation," Yanmei said.

"The process could set an example for other claimants to follow and thus provide incentive for China to negotiate," she said. "By providing greater legal clarity and generating international attention, it could reduce the asymmetry between China and other claimants in negotiations."

With the ruling affecting China's international reputation negatively, the ICG suggested China could take some "incremental and face-saving steps towards compliance." These could include avoiding interference of fishing and exploration activities in other claimants' exclusive economic zones, and making "substantive progress" on formulating a code of conduct in the region.

In a 2015 interview with Rappler, Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio discussed two international cases to show that China would be forced "one way or another" to comply with a ruling that he expects would favor the Philippines in the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (WATCH: Carpio on making China follow the rule of law).

These are the 1986 case of Nicaragua v. United States of America that was filed before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the 2013 case Kingdom of Netherlands v. Russian Federation before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Taiwan rejects Philippines' victory over China

From Rappler (Jul 13): Taiwan rejects Philippines' victory over China

Taiwan says the award won by the Philippines 'is completely unacceptable to the government of the Republic of China'

Taiwan rejected the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that struck down China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), disclosed this position in a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, July 13.
"The award rendered by the tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the South China Sea arbitration is completely unacceptable to the government of the Republic of China," Taiwan said in a statement by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Taiwan added that the tribunal’s ruling on Tuesday, July 12, has "no legally binding force on the ROC."
Explaining its position, Taiwan pointed out that the ruling refers to the ROC as "Taiwan Authority of China." Taiwan said, "This inappropriate designation is demeaning to the status of the ROC as a sovereign state."
Taiwan considers mainland China or the People's Republic of China (PRC) as illegitimate. The PRC, on the other hand, considers Taiwan a renegade government.
'No legally binding force'
Taiwan added that Taiping Island, or Itu Aba, "was not originally included in the Philippines’ submissions for arbitration."
"However, the tribunal took it upon itself to expand its authority, declaring ROC-governed Taiping Island, and other features in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, all to be rocks that 'do not generate an exclusive economic zone,'" Taiwan said.
"This decision severely jeopardizes the legal status of the South China Sea Islands, over which the ROC exercises sovereignty, and their relevant maritime rights," it added.
Taiwan said it "is beyond dispute" that it "is entitled to all rights" over the islands of the South China Sea. It added that the tribunal "did not formally invite" Taiwan to join the arbitration proceedings, nor "did it solicit the ROC’s views."
"Therefore, the award has no legally binding force on the ROC," it said.
While condemning the ruling, Taiwan urged "multilateral negotiations" to settle disputes in the South China Sea.
It added, "The ROC government reiterates that the South China Sea Islands are part of the territory of the ROC and that it will take resolute action to safeguard the country’s territory and relevant maritime rights."
A day after the Hague tribunal struck down China’s claims, a Taiwanese warship already set sail for the South China Sea "to defend Taiwan’s maritime territory."

Hague ruling: Filipinos, Chinese may fish in Scarborough

From Rappler (Jul 13): Hague ruling: Filipinos, Chinese may fish in Scarborough

The UN-backed tribunal recognizes the 'traditional fishing rights' of small-scale Filipino and Chinese fishermen in the shoal, effectively declaring it as a common fishing ground

 The United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that Filipino and Chinese fishermen both have "traditional fishing rights" in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal, effectively declaring the disputed area as a common fishing ground.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration reprimanded China for preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing the shoal to do their livelihood. It said it will reprimand the Philippines, too, if it prevented Chinese from fishing in that area.

"[The Tribunal] would reach the same conclusion with respect to the traditional fishing rights of Chinese fishermen if the Philippines were to prevent fishing by Chinese nationals at Scarborough Shoal," the ruling said.

China claimed historic rights over Scarborough, claiming it to be an island with its own 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China wrested control of the maritime feature from the Philippines in April 2012 following a tense standoff. 
It was its determination to take Scarborough Shoal back that drove the former administration of President Benigno Aquino III to file the historic arbitration case and brave China's wrath. (READ: Aquino legacy: Defying China)

The tribunal junked China's claims that Scarborough is an island and favored the Philippine position that is only a "rock." But the tribunal did not declare the Scarborough Shoal as part of the Philippine EEZ even when it is located within 100 nautical miles off the country's baseline.

Scarborough's territorial seas

Rocks like Scarborough Shoal have territorial seas and are thus sovereign territories that are excluded from the EEZ of countries, the tribunal said. The tribunal stressed that it does not have jurisdiction to rule on sovereignty issues.

"We asked the tribunal to rule that the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal be declared traditional fishing ground of Filipino fishermen. We did not ask that the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal be declared part of our EEZ because legally it could not be," explained a senior member of the government team that handled the Philippine case.
The ruling recognized "traditional fishing rights" of Filipinos and other nationalities, but expressly limiting it to artisanal fishing (or small-scale) as opposed to industrial fishing. 
"Artisanal fishing is used in contrast to “industrial fishing." It does not exclude improvements in powering the small boats, in the techniques of navigation, communication or in the techniques of fishing; but the traditional regime of fishing does not extend to large-scale commercial or industrial fishing nor to fishing by nationals of third States in the Red Sea, whether small-scale or industrial," the ruling said, quoting Eritrea v. Yemen.

The tribunal stressed that "traditional fishing rights" are private rights of individuals, which must be protected. "In archipelagic waters, traditional fishing rights are expressly protected, and Article 51(1) of the Convention provides that “an archipelagic State shall respect existing agreements with other States and shall recognize traditional fishing rights and other legitimate activities of the immediately adjacent neighbouring States in certain areas falling within archipelagic waters," the ruling said.

The tribunal said "traditional fishing rights" of private individuals are different from the "historic rights" of states, which China asserted over almost the entire South China Sea. The tribunal declared the "nine-dash-line claim" of China in favor of freedom of navigation in one of the world's busiest trade routes.

"In the exclusive economic zone, in contrast, traditional fishing rights are extinguished," the ruling said.

Different ruling from Mischief Reef

The ruling on Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, and Reed Bank is different. They are not rocks but "low tide features" that form part of the Philippines' EEZ, the tribunal said.

Low tide features do not have maritime zones. The 3 maritime features are also inside the 200 nautical mile zone of the Philippines.

How the Philippines can recover Mischief Reef, which has been reclaimed by China, is another matter. But the ruling is seen to deter China from continuing its aggressive actions in Second Thomas Shoal and Reed Bank, two flashpoint areas between Manila and Beijing. (READ: How to enforce Hague ruling? PH counsel explains)

The tribunal was able to declare them as part of Philippine EEZ in the absence of other EEZs or territorial seas that overlap with "any possible entitlement of China."
What "possible entitlements" can China have?

The tribunal declared that maritime features in the Spratly Islands are not entitled to exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles) but at least 11 of them are high tide features like Scarborough Shoal that are entitled to territorial seas (12 nautical miles).
These 11 maritime features are the following:
  • Gaven Reef (North), reclaimed by China
  • McKennan Reef, reclaimed by China
  • Johnson Reef, reclaimed by China
  • Cuarteron Reef, reclaimed by China
  • Fiery Cross Reef, reclaimed by China to host an airstrip
  • Itu Aba, occupied by Taiwan
  • Thitu (Pag-Asa), occupied by about a hundred Filipino civilians
  • West York Island (Likas), occupied by the Philippines
  • Spratly Island, occupied by Vietnam
  • North-East Cay (Parola), occupied by the Philippines
  • South West Cay, occupied by Vietnam
Like the Scarborough Shoal, the tribunal cannot rule on the sovereignty of these 11 maritime features.

Where it all started

The ruling suggests that the Philippines did not have the standing to arrest Chinese fishermen in the shoal in April 2012, during the incident that prompted Aquino's battle with China.

The Aquino administration lost effective control of Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 after a tense standoff with China that was prompted by Philippine Navy's arrest Chinese fishermen in the area. Chinese Coast Guard ships immediately responded to assist its citizens, leading to the standoff. (READ: Timeline: The Philippines-China maritime dispute)

China's actions suprised the Philippines, which had long occupied Scarborough Shoal. Its navy has traditionally arrested poachers in the area.

The Philippines sought the assistance of its treaty ally US, which was believed to have brokered an arrangement with China for both countries to withdraw from the standoff. The Philippines withdrew its warship, but China did not and has since occupied the shoal.

The Philippines continued to engage China, but Manila eventually lost hope in the talks and filed the case in April 2013. The Aquino administration then decided that a favorable arbitration ruling is its only hope to leverage with China. (READ: Aquino legacy: Defying China)

Case prompted China's reclamation?

China began constructing artificial islands around the same time, prompting critics to say that the filing of the case worsened the situation because it prompted China's aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: PH case provoked China's massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea)

China reclaimed 7 maritime features to build airstrips and installed missile launchers, threatening the security in the region.

The rising superpower did not back down amid verbal threats from the US, which has traditionally dominated the waters in the West Philippine Sea.

China also rejected the July 12, 2016 ruling of the tribunal. "Do not turn the South China Sea into a cradle of war," vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, as he described the ruling as waste paper.

Carmela Fonbuena is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She is studying Political Communication at Cardiff University as a British Chevening scholar.

Indonesia mulls military escorts for fishers to halt abductions by Abu Sayyaf

From InterAksyo  (Jul 13): Indonesia mulls military escorts for fishers to halt abductions by Abu Sayyaf

Indonesia's defense minister Wednesday proposed military escorts for boats sailing perilous routes to the Philippines where dozens of sailors have been kidnapped by Islamist militants in recent months.

Twenty-four Indonesian crew members and a handful of Malaysians have been abducted this year traveling in the vital waterway between the three countries.

The latest abduction was at the weekend when three Indonesian sailors were snatched from their vessel in Malaysian waters by gun-toting men on a speedboat and taken towards the strife-torn southern Philippines.

Philippine Islamist extremist outfit Abu Sayyaf, notorious for carrying out kidnappings-for-ransom, has been blamed for the abductions.

The transport ministry last month banned Indonesian-flagged vessels from sailing to the Philippines following the kidnappings, but Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said that he planned to make their journeys safe, once they were allowed to sail again. The boats heading from Indonesia should follow an appointed route in groups, be accompanied by military personnel and escorted by an Indonesian navy vessel, he said.

The minister said that once they reach the Philippines maritime border, the Philippine navy should take over and escort them on to their destination.

"I will tell the barge businessmen, if you want to go, you must report and then go 10 barges all at once, and they will have military personnel in every barge," he told AFP.

"This cannot happen again in the future," he added, referring to abductions.

After the latest kidnappings, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged the Philippines and Malaysia to step up maritime security.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also sought to discourage boat owners and businesses from paying ransoms for the release of hostages, something he said the government never did.

In May, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to launch coordinated patrols of the waters, although the countries are still working out the details.

Of the Indonesians abducted this year, fourteen were released after being held in Abu Sayyaf's stronghold in the southern Philippines but the others remain in captivity.

Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred Islamist militants, formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

US launches 'quiet diplomacy' to ease South China Sea tensions

From InterAksyon (Jul 13): US launches 'quiet diplomacy' to ease South China Sea tensions

The United States is using quiet diplomacy to persuade the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian nations not to move aggressively to capitalize on an international court ruling that denied China's claims to the South China Sea, several US administration officials said on Wednesday.

"What we want is to quiet things down so these issues can be addressed rationally instead of emotionally," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic messages.

Some were sent through US embassies abroad and foreign missions in Washington, while others were conveyed directly to top officials by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials, the sources said.

"This is a blanket call for quiet, not some attempt to rally the region against China, which would play into a false narrative that the US is leading a coalition to contain China," the official added.

The effort to calm the waters following the court ruling in The Hague on Tuesday suffered a setback when Taiwan dispatched a warship to the area, with President Tsai Ing-wen telling sailors that their mission was to defend Taiwan's maritime territory.

The court ruled that while China has no historic rights to the area within its self-declared nine-dash line, Taiwan has no right to Itu Aba, also called Taiping, the largest island in the Spratlys. Taipei administers Itu Abu but the tribunal called it a "rock," according to the legal definition.

The US officials said they hoped the US diplomatic initiative would be more successful in Indonesia, which wants to send hundreds of fishermen to the Natuna Islands to assert its sovereignty over nearby areas of the South China Sea to which China says it also has claims, and in the Philippines, whose fishermen have been harassed by Chinese coast guard and naval vessels.

'Unknown quantity'

One official said President Rodrigo Duterte remains "somewhat of an unknown quantity" who has been alternately bellicose and accommodating toward China.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that ahead of the ruling he had spoken to Carter, who he said told him China had assured the United States it would exercise restraint, and that the US government made the same assurance.

Carter had sought and been given the same assurance from the Philippines, Lorenzana added.

Meanwhile, two Chinese civilian aircraft landed on Wednesday at two new airports on reefs controlled by China in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a move the State Department said would increase tensions rather than lower them.

"We don't have a dog in this fight other than our belief ... in freedom of navigation," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing on Wednesday. "What we want to see in this very tense part of Asia, of the Pacific, rather, is a de-escalation of tensions and we want to see all claimants take a moment to look at how we can find a peaceful way forward."

Contingency plan

However, if that effort fails, and competition escalates into confrontation, US air and naval forces are prepared to uphold freedom of maritime and air navigation in the disputed area, a defense official said on Wednesday.

Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said confrontation is less likely if the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries work with the United States rather than on their own.

"I don't think China wants a confrontation with the United States," he told reporters. "They don’t mind a confrontation with a Vietnamese fishing boat, but they don’t want a confrontation with the United States."

The court ruling is expected to dominate a meeting at the end of July in Laos of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, and his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, will attend the ministerial.

Sino-American relations suffered two fresh blows on Wednesday as a congressional committee found China's government likely hacked computers at the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the United States challenged China's export duties on nine metals and minerals that are important to the aerospace, auto, electronics and chemical industries.

US affirmed 'iron-clad' support for PH – DND chief

From InterAksyon (Jul 13): US affirmed 'iron-clad' support for PH – DND chief

The United States had affirmed its “iron clad” support for the Philippines even ahead of the favorable ruling by a UN tribunal rejecting China's claim of "historic rights" and its nine-dash-line delineation in the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said Wednesday.

He clarified, though, that after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague issued Tuesday its 11-page verdict on the case filed by Manila in 2013, the Philippine government did not solicit the US’ opinion or advice on what to do next.

“We will not consult them (US) on our actions. Our action will be guided by what is good for our country. [We have neighbors who] are claimants also, in the community of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It’s them that we should be consulting [as to what we should say or do next, as we have some overlapping claims with them],” Lorenzana said, partly in Filipino.

China had imposed its “nine-dash line” on a vast expanse - nearly 90 percent of South China Sea - on areas that embraced the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Lorenzana said his US counterpart, Secretary Ashton Carter, made a “short call” to him Sunday afternoon, three days before the verdict, to reassure Manila of Washignton’s solid support.

He said Carter was with President Barack Obama in London when they talked over the phone.

“He called me up Sunday, about four in the afternoon. He said, 'we want to assure you that our alliance, our defense pact, is iron clad',” Lorenzana said.

The DND chief said Carter also told him that “in light of the impending publication of the tribunal’s ruling…the Chinese assured us that they will exercise restraint and we assured them also that we will exercise restraint.”

According to Lorenzana, Carter said, "we expect the same [restraint] from the Philippines." Lorenzana said he replied, "of course we will exercise restraint."

The brief exchange ended with Carter saying, "rest assured that we support you here in this,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana also declined to comment on what Manila would do should China declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

“The US already said they will not also honor China’s ADIZ…We consult with our ASEAN allies who are also claimants in the area,” he said.

 He noted that there is an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the US and the Philippines.

 “We will decide what to do when that happens. ‘Let's not talk about it now, it’s a hypothetical question. So I will not answer that,” he said.

Cautious on artificial islands

Meanwhile, the Western Command (Westcom) commander, Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, said that, without guidance of the national govenrment, they cannot just move into the artificial islands created by the Chinese inside the area covered by Palawan's municipality, the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

“There is no guidance to change whatever we have been doing. The bottom line right now is you know we are just waiting for policies to be laid down by the national government,” Mercado said.

For his part, Lorenzana said they have yet to get information on China’s action in the WPS after the verdict.

“We do not know about the other side: if they are beefing up their forces or adding some more assets there,” he said.

 Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte gave his Cabinet instructions “not to rush” in deciding what to do next, but he stressed that China should respect the PCA’s verdict.

“I hope that China will abide by this because it will be good for the whole region if everybody will follow the rule of law. Nobody can just cherry pick the laws that we are going to abide by. We believe in a community of nations and exist side by side harmoniously,” he said.

Lorenzana said “the government is studying everything and wait for other developments." The President had indicated that "we will consult with our allies first.”

On Tuesday, just after the PCA verdict was announced, the Palace announced that Solicitor General Jose Calida was tasked to provide the President and Cabinet a report explaining the implications of the ruling. Duterte said a clear roadmap on the subject would be issued in five days.

Threat to sink BRP Sierra Madre

Lorenzana declined to comment on China’s threat to sink the rusty BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal, which the government turned into a detachment of the Philippine Marines.

 “We still have to study our course of action on the issue,” Lorenzana said.

He said there was a scheduled resupply mission last week to the Ayungin troops, but this was postponed in deference to the PCA verdict.

 The Philippine Navy suspended the resupply to avoid it being “misconstrued" by "the other side (China)" as an "act of provocation."

“So, I do not know when the next resupply will be, but definitely we are going there to resupply them by any means,” he said.